about cj

Hi. I’m cj Madigan, founder of Shoebox Stories and creator of the blog book thinking.

my work, my passion

I revere photographs: those magical pieces of chemically-processed paper, most of which has no market value but, to a particular audience, are absolutely priceless. I positively swoon over books: the feel and weight of them, the cover-bending, page-turning, paper-touching, physical bookness of them. I have both a knack and a compulsion to give order to things: to sort and organize and arrange them in such a way that a meaning greater than the sum of the individual parts emerges. And I’m also a whip-smart project manager who makes sure that everything gets done in the right sequence at the right time.

All of these strands weave together in Shoebox Stories. Sometimes I do digital archiving: sometimes I do book design. And, there are those occasional periods of grace when I get to fulfill my destiny and do it all: organize, digitize and catalog photo collections and then design and produce one or more gorgeous, heirloom books to preserve these images and their stories for generations not yet born. [Be still my heart.]

my guiding principles

I’m the entire workforce of Shoebox Stories, at least in terms meaningful to the IRS. But I never work alone. Every project teams me up with incredibly talented and interesting people: writers & editors, videographers & photographers, artists, designers & digital imaging specialists, printers & binders, librarians & archivists.

I seek out—and attract—projects where my particular combination of skills, temperment and experience adds tremendous value. And, frankly, I look for projects where I can work with people I can learn from and take on challenges that stretch me—technically, professionally, and personally.

When asked why she took the voice-over role of Violet Parr in the Pixar animated film The Incredibles, author Sarah Vowell said “I never pass up an opportunity to work with excellence.”


I listen carefully to what you say and, more importantly, to what you may not yet be able to express. I believe that a good part of my job is to help us develop a common vocabulary in order to articulate what we are trying to accomplish.

However, since design is a process, we often can’t define the final outcome until we’ve done some work. That’s why I organize my projects into phases. The outcome of the first phase—some sort of design brief or requirements document—is clear at the beginning; the outcomes of subsequent phases, not so much. But as we move through each phase, we can better define those ahead. This gives us time to make adjustments along the way, take advantage of serendipitous discoveries and insights, yet stay on track.

Another crucial part of my role on any project is to put your mind at ease that I’ll deliver what I promise, when I promise it, at the fee we agreed on. And if for some reason that’s not possible, to raise a warning as early in the process as possible and propose a feasible alternative. That, I believe, is the performance standard for a good project manager.

my professional background

I’ve been designing and producing books and other print publications since the early days of what was then referred to as “desktop publishing” and I supposed is now referred to as, simply, “the way we create books”. And for the past decade, I’ve digitized, enhanced, and manipulated literally tens of thousands of photos. My favorite tools are InDesign and Photoshop and I’m excited to be integrating Aperture into my digital workflow. I am geeky about information design, metadata, tagging and other classification systems. In past professional incarnations, I’ve been an executive secretary, operations supervisor, systems analyst, project manager, professional speaker, corporate trainer, writer, and editor. If you want more of these factual details, visit my linkedin.com profile.

the rest of me

There is more to me than just my work, my Mac, and my Adobe Creative Suite. My work on a master’s degree at Goddard College changed my life. I glue tangible ephemera to painted paper and I pin visual ephemera to my Pinterest boards. I hang out with other syfy geeks on Twitter  to live tweet our faves. This year’s lineup: Defiance, ContinuumWarehouse 13, and Haven. Best ever: StarTrek TNG, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Firefly, and Fringe. I think my house has a “kindhearted lady” sign on it that only stray cats can see. I can’t always remember which of my friends I’ve met face to face and which ones I encounter only online. My favorite Florida big bird is the wood stork and I’ve made peace with the non-venomous and shy scarlet snake occasionally finding its way into my house.